There’s a balancing act that’s necessary in the politics of a country as diverse as Nigeria. It’s the reason behind written codes like the federal character principle in the constitution and unwritten codes like the controversial zoning of political offices. Many Nigerians agree that balance is important to satisfy as many groups as possible.
But Bola Tinubu isn’t many Nigerians — he’s even shipping a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election. The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate caused a stir when he announced former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.
A presidential ticket in Nigeria should typically have one northerner and one southerner filling the slots for president and vice president. It also helps that one of them is Christian and the other one is Muslim — sorry to the traditionalists and atheists who have zero representation in these permutations.
Tinubu’s departure from this balanced convention has earned him heat from Christian organisations, the opposition and even members of his own party. But because he still needs balance in public perception of his ambition, he’s shopping for prominent Christian support. There was even a made-up story of endorsement from big hitters like Pastor Enoch Adeboye that was later debunked.
But what happens when you can’t secure the Christian endorsement you desperately need to boost your chances? Well, you get as creative and dramatic as possible.
Tinubu’s Red Wedding
When Tinubu officially unveiled Shettima as his running mate at a ceremony on July 20th, 2022, red flags went up all over the place.
Some of the invited guests at the ceremony immediately drew attention for wearing outfits that suggested they were Catholic bishops. Their presence immediately sent up red flags online as it was considered an endorsement of Tinubu’s controversial ticket.
The only problem was no one seemed to recognise them as Christian leaders of any sort. Nigerians were naturally curious about where they came from.
The improper manner some of the “bishops” were dressed suggested they’d only been Catholic bishops for like 30 minutes. It almost felt like they arrived at the venue in their everyday clothes and changed into their wrongly-themed and badly-fit Catholic outfits at the venue.
Journalists at the event were eager to interview them but the “bishops” weren’t feeling very chatty. They maintained a wall of silence and kept waving off invasive questions like, “May we meet you?”, “What’s your name?” and “What’s the name of your church?”
The only person on the team that agreed to speak to a journalist identified himself as Prince. He also introduced himself as the president of the “Muslim and Christian Love Foundation” — which isn’t suspicious at all.
Did the church say Amen?
The Catholic Church immediately announced that it didn’t send any representatives to the event. The church described the “bishops” that showed up there as “imposters” based on the way they dressed and conducted themselves.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also described the “bishops” as hired mechanics who were given clerical garments. CAN official, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said it best when he described the whole situation as “another Nollywood movie”.
It didn’t help their case that some of the “bishops” were caught on video changing into regular clothes after the show was over.
Who are these people?
The Tinubu campaign has assured everyone that the “bishops” at the event aren’t mechanics or yam sellers as everyone suspects. According to the campaign team, the “bishops” are just not big names in Christian circles yet.
Since he’s struggled to secure the endorsement of A-list clergymen not named Tunde Bakare, Nigerians are supposed to believe Tinubu went to scrap the bottom of the pot for upcoming bishops.
As it stands, no one can positively identify many of these “bishops”. But we found Prince and can confirm he’s sha a pastor of a church somewhere in Abuja:
But he’s also an APC party man:
The bishop episode has further stoked anger about Tinubu’s disrespect for Nigeria’s huge Christian community. His campaign may be able put the scandal to rest by producing a list of names of the “bishops” and the addresses of their churches. But we continue to wait.
Or, since Shettima himself gave a special shoutout to the “30 bishops” during his speech, maybe he can help with that list.